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Lakewood reaches out to the silent, tree-cutting majority

Lakewood trees postcardToday we got a postcard from the City of Lakewood, telling us about possible changes to the tree code. If the recommendations of the recent Ad Hoc Tree Committee come into force, it will become more difficult to cut down trees on your property – particularly if the trees are Garry oaks.

I suspect the City was somewhat disappointed with the Ad Hoc Tree Committee. They tried to include members who were hostile to increased regulation, but overall, the Committee showed itself to be tree-friendly.

Matters were helped by the fact that members who were connected with real estate interests stopped turning up during the last few sessions. Maybe they had other commitments, or maybe they didn’t like the way things were going. Maybe they knew they didn’t really have to show up to all the meetings, since the Planning Commission would trash the recommendations later anyway.

And now the City of Lakewood is informing everyone in the City that the Ad Hoc Tree Committee has proposed stronger protections for trees.

That’s strange. The City never sent postcards to everyone in Lakewood telling them about proposals to create industrial zones. We weren’t told about plans to cut down hundreds of Garry oaks to make way for warehouses, and how we could register our opposition.

Maybe the City were just giving everyone a friendly warning. If you want to cut your Garry oaks down, you better do it now, because the rules are about to change.

Alternatively, Lakewood may regard those that care about environmental conservation as a lunatic fringe. They probably think that most Lakewood residents either don’t care about trees, or believe that property owner rights are absolute and God-given.

Then at the public hearing on July 6, the tree-huggers will be forced to wake up to the rude reality that they’re only a tiny minority.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Mark Pfeiffer June 10, 2022, 11:29 am

    I haven’t fully dijested the Ad Hoc Committee report, and I probably won’t bother as it will, in all likelihood, be unrecognizable once it goes through the “sausage factory” maceration of the Planning Commission and Community Development’s planning staff. But I digress from what’s actually on my mind.
    I believe there is too much emphasis on dissuation, prohibition, and punishment in the effort to prevent, curtail, and otherwise attenuate efforts by property owners to make the most out of their real estate assets. What I believe is missing from the policy equation are sufficient and significant incentives for tree preservation. Instead of relying almost exclusively on what property owners may or may not do, we should add to that mix a list of positive incentives, geared to making tree preservation an attractive proposition. For example:
    1. The fee for plan checking is based, generally, on a percentage of cost to construct. I submit, that’s a bit arbitrary, and that some could be waived to mitigate tree preservation. In 2013. I pulled a permit to construct a detached 432 sq ft garage, using professionally prepared plans and specs…$695 for a $30,000 cost to construct est (plannings est, not mine). I sat down with the plan checker to go over the permit; it took about 15 minutes. There were three site visits: foundation trenching and rebar; seismic frame strapping due to reduced opening returns (36″ vs 48″, and I had to remind the inspector of the requirement; final inspection. Those three visits lasted no more than 10-15 minutes each. There has to be some wiggle room in that fee.
    2. Allow credit for lot size(s) if trees are preserved. That is, add the “drip line” area of preserved trees to a proposed short or long Plat, in order to meet minimum lot size(s).
    3. Allow for increased impermeable surfaces equal to the allowance in 2., above.
    It cost a lot of money to remove a tree and it’s root ball, anywhere from $2K-$3K, with removal cost partially offset by firewood (Garry Oak) or lumber (Doug Fir) values. That’s not chump change. Add such cost avoidance to other incentives and I submit that, in many cases, property owners will willingly work with the City to preserve that which is part of its historic name…Lakewood.

    • James Dunlop June 10, 2022, 9:20 pm

      Thanks for the comment.

      The Ad Hoc Tree Committee certainly considered incentives, and think in many cases these might be helpful. But even if you ask for permits, this is not a major obstacle to tree removal – at least not compared to the cost of removal. I think the biggest threat comes from people who want to build or expand. I suppose there are some people who seek remove for trivial reasons – for example, being concerned about the leaf mess. Of course the best incentive to keep trees would be reduced property tax, but I don’t think the City would be keen on that!

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